The educational requirements to become a finance lawyer include earning a bachelor's degree and a Juris Doctor degree, as well as passing a board exam to become licensed to practice. Finance lawyers can represent clients in fields including banking, tax, and real estate, and must work to constantly stay up to date on progress in these areas.
Finance lawyers assist clients with financial matters that range from tapping debt markets to assisting corporations with restructuring businesses. Finance lawyers may specialize in categories including banking, project finance, real estate finance and private equity finance, or they may have broad industry knowledge. These professionals have completed their education at a law school that is American Bar Association (ABA) approved and have earned licensure.
|Required Education||Juris Doctor|
|Other Requirements||State bar exam|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||6% for all lawyers*|
|Average Salary (2015)||$136,260 for all lawyers*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
Job Description of a Finance Lawyer
Financial law can be broken down into several practices, including banking, project finance, real estate finance and private equity finance, as well as a few others. Financial lawyers may specialize in one of these subcategories or have broad industry knowledge. Lawyers generally work in an office setting and may frequently travel to see clients.
Duties of a Finance Lawyer
Finance lawyers may begin a new case by meeting with a client to clearly understand the prevailing issues. For example, a finance attorney may advise a client on how to set up a new business, including whether to structure it as a limited liability company, limited partnership or other type of business. Additionally, the lawyer might assist the client in providing appropriate documentation, like bank accounts, credit card numbers and a tax identification number. He or she may then advise the client on creating contracts for employees and securing lending from banking institutions.
Finance lawyers also may represent their clients at trial. Lawyers present a client's case in court by questioning experts, cross-examining witnesses, providing supporting evidence and making closing arguments.
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Requirements of a Finance Lawyer
After graduating from college and taking the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), prospective finance lawyers must matriculate to an ABA-accredited law school. Students generally study law for three years, beginning their first year with required courses in contractual, constitutional and property law. After their first year is complete, prospective financial lawyers can take specialized courses geared toward finance, such as securities regulation, business taxation and corporate finance. Graduates are awarded a Juris Doctor (J.D.) and can begin practicing law after completing their state's bar exam.
Additional Education and Certification
Most states require that J.D.s continue their education to keep abreast of legal changes. Additionally, to further advance their education and understanding of finance and the law, finance lawyers may pursue a 1-year Master of Laws (L.L.M.) program, which often will allow them to design a finance and legal curriculum based on their interests. Finance lawyers may enhance employment opportunities and gain distinction by earning voluntary American Board of Certification designations, which are issued in fields like bankruptcy. The certification process generally involves submitting an application, paying membership dues and completing a credentialing exam.
Career Outlook and Salary Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipated that employment for lawyers in general would increase 6% from 2014-2024, which is a growth of approximately 44,000 jobs. Ongoing need for legal services is expected to fuel employment for lawyers, though job competition will be strong. As of May 2015, the average annual salary for lawyers, including finance lawyers, was $136,260, according to the BLS.
In summary, a finance lawyer can have broad industry knowledge, or choose to specialize in a field such as private equity finance or real estate finance. They qualify to practice by earning a Juris Doctor degree and passing a state bar exam, and may also choose to pursue an L.L.M degree to further their knowledge. Job growth for all lawyers should be about as fast as average in the coming decade.